News | Seven PSR Students win RASC Scholarships

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Seven PSR Students win RASC Scholarships

Sunday, October 24, 2021

by Aylish Turner, BA, Interactive Entertainment, USC

We are proud to congratulate the 2021 Railway Association of Southern California (RASC) Scholarship recipients.  The Railway Association of Southern California is committed to supporting graduate and undergraduate students working towards careers in the rail transportation industry. Their scholarship program is offered once a year to local students in the Southern California region.  This year, RASC awarded three scholarships to undergraduate/progressive degree students and four scholarships to graduate students.  This year, all seven of the awardees are students associated with Pacific Southwest Region University Transportation Center (PSR) partner universities.  Award winners are listed below, and we invite you to read more about each in the profiles which follow.


University of Southern California (USC)
Hayley Rundle, Master of Science, Urban Planning
Andres Zazueta, Bachelor and Master of Science, Civil Engineering
Matthew Mena, Bachelor of Science, Industrial and Systems Engineering
Isidoro Serna, Bachelor and Master of Science, Urban Studies and Urban Planning


University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
Connor Bente, Master of Science, Urban and Regional Planning
Elizabeth Owen, Master of Science, Urban and Regional Planning
Karen Phan, Master of Science, Urban and Regional Planning


Connor Bente is working towards a Master of Science in Urban and Regional Planning at the Luskin School of Public Affairs, UCLA.  He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Geography and Environmental Studies, also at UCLA. Connor describes himself as a “disciplined, detail-oriented UCLA Geography/Environmental Studies graduate with a passion for urban planning and environmental management.”  While an undergraduate, he worked as a data assistant under the mentorship of Professor Donald Shoup, analyzing the impacts of proposed policy on a transit-proximate neighborhood. It was then that he became particularly interested in transportation.  “I enjoy exploring how cultural preferences and policy influence development, travel behavior, and their externalities,” he shares. “My strengths in spatial awareness, data collection/analysis, advanced GIS, composition, and presentation, coupled with my ability to work in a variety of environments and interact with all sorts of people, will serve as formative assets in the shaping of a sustainable future.”


Matthew Mena is working towards a Bachelor of Science in Industrial and Systems Engineering at the Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Viterbi School of Engineering, USC, and is minoring in Business Finance and Computer Science. Matthew is an RASC Undergraduate Scholarship recipient.  His is a first-generation college student with experience working on the computer and electrical system of special operations cargo planes while in the United States Air Force as an Integrated Avionics Systems specialist. He greatly appreciated his experience serving in the military and was exemplary.  “During my short enlistment,” he shares, “I achieved the rank of Staff Sergeant which takes most six years to achieve.” Matt hopes to pursue a career in the banking, consultant, finance, and technology industries.


Elizabeth Owen is working towards a Master of Science in Urban and Regional Planning at the Luskin School of Public Affairs, UCLA. Prior to coming to UCLA, she earned a Bachelor of Urban Studies and Planning at UC San Diego, where she won First Place Distinguished Senior Research project for her capstone project on evaluating the local drivers of accessory dwelling unit interest. She has interned in both the public and the private sector, and currently holds a remote internship in land use planning with the Sacramento Area Council of Governments. “I have a wide variety of interests particularly in public transit, travel behavior change, housing and land use policy, long-range planning, and micro-mobility,” Elizabeth notes.  “In my free time, I am an active APA member and California Chapter student representative.”


Karen Phan is a graduate student at UCLA working towards a Master of Science in Urban and Regional Planning with a focus on Transportation Policy and Planning at the Luskin School of Public Affairs, UCLA.  She earned an undergraduate degree in Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley, and after graduating, worked in the environmental consulting sector, where she was exposed to the urban planning field. Karen was a summer intern at Kittelson & Associates in Transportation Planning and is a year-round intern at OCTA in the Active Transportation department.  She notes that she is very fortunate to have received this hands-on experience. Her career goals are to work on projects that include active transportation, safety, emerging technology, and development services in the future.  “I am all for encouraging more sustainable transportation choices,” she says, “finding efficiencies to help solve regional commute issues, and making our transportation network safer and more efficient for all.”


Hayley Rundle is working towards a Master of Science in Urban Planning at the Sol Price School of Public Policy, USC. Hayley is a Metrolink Inaugural 2021 Graduate Scholarship recipient.  “My interest in transportation was sparked when I visited Europe and was amazed at how efficient and easy to use their transit systems were, despite not speaking the native language, she says.  “I then became interested in how our transportation systems in the United States could be enhanced, to mitigate GHG emissions and the associated negative impacts, while also using transportation to improve mobility and accessibility for disadvantaged communities.” Hayley is currently interning at Fehr and Peers, and after graduation, hopes to have the opportunity to continue working in the private sector as part of a transportation consulting firm.


Isidoro Serna is a first-generation, progressive degree student at the Sol Price School of Public Policy, USC.  He is concurrently pursuing Bachelor of Science in Urban Studies and Planning as well as a Master of Urban Planning.  He is an RASC Undergraduate Scholarship recipient and expects to complete his Bachelor’s Degree in 2022 and his Master’s Degree in 2023.  Isidoro is a Dean’s list student who has been quite active in more than just his studies.  He has served as the METRANS Student Newsletter Publisher and Editor in Chief for the past year, has interned at the USC Initiative to Eliminate Homelessness researching community land trusts across the United States, is a Research Assistant at the USCCenter for Economic Development, is a Price Undergraduate Ambassador, co-chairs the USC Price Latino Student Association, is the community Outreach chair of Undergraduate Planning at Price, and is a volunteer at the USC Trojan Food Pantry.


Andres Zazueta is currently pursuing both a Bachelor and Master of Science in Structural Engineering in the Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Viterbi School of Engineering, USC.  Andres is a Metrolink Inaugural 2021 Undergraduate Scholarship recipient.  “As a progressive degree student, I am simultaneously fulfilling the requirements for both the Bachelor of Science and Master of Science programs and expect to complete both degrees in May 2022,” Andres explains.  “I am interested in the link between technology, sustainability, and infrastructure. I hope to use my academic and professional experience to enrich the lives of others and solve problems.”


About Author:
When author Aylish Turner is not writing for the METRANS Student News, developing the METRANS Transportation Game, or serving in a leadership role with METRANS Toastmasters Club, is working to graduate with a BA in Interactive Entertainment from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences in conjunction with the USC School of Cinematic Arts.  Her primarily focuses are in conceptual character and environment art for animation and games, and she has a particular passion for stop-motion animation and web design.